Around the Blawgosphere: Blogger's Advice to New Law Grads? Find Mentor to Answer 'Dumb' Questions

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For All the New Grads

A recent law school graduate and aspiring personal injury lawyer asked New York Personal Injury Law Blog’s Eric Turkewitz if he had any advice for him.

Turkewitz recalled the piece of advice that he describes as one of the best things that happened to him in his training: “For the first year, there are no stupid questions.”

That advice was liberating. “Telling me that there was no such thing as a stupid question inoculated me, psychologically, from the fear of asking what I thought were really stupid questions, the answers to which everyone must know. Even if they just pretended to know.”

So what a young lawyer needs to focus on is finding a mentor who is open to taking the time to answer such questions. He also exhorts supervisors to put themselves out as mentors, and be receptive to questions from newbies at their firms, no matter how trite they may be. And know this, he writes: “If there is a fear of asking questions—because the young lawyer is afraid of looking ignorant—then the mentoring process has completely failed. Big time.”

How to Handle ‘No’ for an Answer

At Attorney at Work, Denver-based law firm consultant Merrilyn Astin Tarlton advises lawyers who have their requests for proposals rejected to reconnect with the would-be clients who told them no—by phone rather than by email or face-to-face.

What do you want to find out from that phone conversation? Make sure that “no,” meant “no,” for one thing. Also, communicate that there are no hard feelings and find out which legal team did get the job. Also ask what you could do to make a better proposal next time and let them know that you’re available for future work. Then take what you’ve learned to the rest of your team, share it, and begin again.

“Wouldn’t it be great if clients just noticed the old firm website by chance and found what you’ve written about yourself to be so compelling that they call and hire you on the spot?” Tarlton wrote. “Yeah. Never happens. If you’re going to be in private practice nowadays, you’re going to have to learn how to ask for (and get) the work. Doing it wrong is your best opportunity to get it right.”

Aloha, 9th Circuit

This past week, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ annual (taxpayer-funded) conference took place at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Upon learning of this in May, two U.S. senators wrote Chief Judge Alex Kozinski to tell him that with the federal judiciary facing funding cuts, it wasn’t appropriate for judges to have a confab at an island resort.

Kozinski responded to the senators earlier this month that these plans were made two years ago, and undoing them at this point would not be cost-effective. He also noted that the 9th Circuit will not have a conference in 2013, and the 2014 event will be held in Monterey, Calif., near the circuit’s home base.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke at the Maui event, and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog got a hold of his remarks (PDF), in which Kennedy defended the conference’s tropical location.

“[It’s] important that this conference meet frequently in Hawaii,” Kennedy said. “There is a loveliness, even a loneliness in the Pacific that makes it fitting for us to search in quiet for the elegance and the beauty of the law. The Hawaiian islands, a state on equal footing and of equal dignity with the 13 original states, and all of the other states, is a bastion of freedom in the Pacific. … And it’s an honor to be here in Hawaii to celebrate the fact that it is citadel of liberty, a bastion of freedom, and we thank the Hawaiian people for their gracious welcome that they always give to us when we come here.”

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